[OUTLOOK]Moving into the mainstreamMichael Parenti, a liberal American philosopher, wrote a book, “History As Mystery.” He did not see mainstream history as historical truth but rather as a particular interpretation through the censorship of rulers. He emphasized that to get away from the history of the ruling class and write non-mainstream history, historians should dig out the hidden stories, such as farmers’ riots, laborers’ strife, oppression of liberal politicians, private businesses’ plunder and seizure, the United States’ imperialism, and the rape, pillage, slaughter and destruction of aboriginals.
He defined true history as the act of constructive destruction of mainstream ideology in an attempt to make a new historical interpretation and challenge fixed ideas. In another book, “The Assassination of Julius Caesar,” Parenti traced how non-mainstream reformist Caesar, who sided with the people, was murdered. He interpreted that the aristocrats of the Senate, who were the mainstream forces in Rome with vested interests, like Cicero, collectively assassinated Caesar to resist his land redistribution policy that infringed on their property rights.
We should not conclude that every historical narrative is mainstream history. “Records of History” by a Chinese historian, Samachun, contains a history of success and failure and of mainstream and non-mainstream ideas at the same time. Some historiographers had met with the disaster of having their whole family exterminated for questioning the right and wrong of predecessors’ politics amid the ruler-centered record of the dynasty.
But we also need to look at the development of history from the perspective of “the non-mainstream’s shift toward the mainstream.” Liu Bang, the founder of the Han dynasty, the largest empire in China, was a man about town in bad terms and a man of chivalrous spirit in good terms. When mainstream politics was chaotic and lost morality and the people’s livelihood fell into extreme distress, a group of chivalrous persons sharing the same purpose joined together. This group provided a driving force for the birth of Liu Bang and Zhu Yuanzhang, the founder of the Ming dynasty, as national leaders and became major forces which led the new spirit of the times.
From this viewpoint, I think our society is now entering an age when non-mainstream becomes mainstream. The president and most of his aides took the lead in protesting the military dictatorship of the past and struggled to achieve democracy. An analysis showed that the “386 generation democratic fighters” accounted for 37 percent of the Blue House staff during the early Roh Moo-hyun administration, and after the legislative elections, 55 lawmakers with a democratic movement background in the 1980s advanced into the Assembly. The prime minister and other power holders of the present administration were in and out of prison around the same period. They were, in bad terms, a group of criminals but in good terms, a group of chivalrous persons of the times who dedicated themselves to achieving democracy. Now they have taken their positions at the center of power. The non-mainstream’s shift toward the mainstream reached this point.
History is the past which became the present. What is indispensable in the process of non-mainstream’s shift toward mainstream is magnanimity and tolerance. Once non-mainstream forces begin to become mainstream, they should no longer instigate division and conflict. Caesar adopted a tolerance policy and Liu Bang used a policy of reconciliation and tolerance. They did not divide the people into enemies and friends. On the contrary, they kept at arm’s length and excluded their comrades of national foundation when they caused internal conflict.
The strong point of non-mainstream lies in its freshness, strong driving force, and vitality, which overwhelm old mainstream’s inability and immorality. The non-mainstream founders can draw attention from the people with their strong growth engine. Caesar expanded the Roman empire to Egypt and distributed a great deal of land by developing the Tiber River. Liu Bang also built an empire ruled by law by gathering talented people from across the country with his strong attraction. He founded a wealthy country with strong military power. In other words, he achieved a practical result by suggesting a vision to strengthen security and revive the economy.
How about the strategy of our non-mainstream of this age, which has become mainstream? It seems to be close to stirring up division and conflict rather than unity. There may be a strategy of reinforcing the non-mainstream’s move toward the mainstream through division and conflict, but this is an idea of the non-mainstream, in which they forget that they are a new mainstream. Regarding the capital move, all power holders come forward to criticize opposition as a non-confidence motion against the president and a movement to remove the political leadership, and the media that oppose the president as old mainstream forces with vested interests, but this is a typical non-mainstream approach of instigating division.
The display of freshness, different from the old mainstream, through drastic political reform and independence of the prosecution can be evaluated as an achievement unique to a new mainstream. But there is no sign of a strong growth engine or vision. One and a half years have already passed since President Roh took office. Apart from tangible outcomes, he is groping about in the mist where no blueprint is visible. Mainstream should act as such. Even if it was accustomed to opposition and resistance, the non-mainstream should suggest a vision for national development once it becomes the mainstream. It is a method of the non-mainstream to instigate division and conflict among the people with a wasteful transfer of the capital and retrogressive identification of pro-Japanese figures.
Show magnanimity and vitality as a new mainstream should.
* The writer is the executive editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kwon Young-bin